Thought is the common factor of all mankind. There is no Eastern thought, or Western thought; there is only the common capacity to think, whether one is utterly poor or most sophisticated, living in an affluent society. Whether a surgeon, a carpenter, a labourer in the field, or a great poet, thought is the common factor of all of us. We do not seem to realise that thought is the common factor that binds us all. You think according to your capacity, to your energy, your experience and knowledge; another thinks differently according to his experience and conditioning. We are all caught in this network of thought. This is a fact, indisputable and actual.

Our consciousness is a very complicated affair. Volumes have been written about it, both in the East and in the West. We are not aware of our own consciousness; to examine that consciousness in all its complexity one has to be free to look, to be choicelessly aware of its movement.

Consciousness is common to all mankind. Throughout the world man suffers inwardly as well as outwardly, there is anxiety, uncertainty, utter despair of loneliness; there is insecurity, jealousy, greed, envy and suffering. Human consciousness is one whole; it is not your consciousness or mine.  This is logical, sane, rational: wherever you go, in whatever climate you live, whether you are affluent or degradingly poor, whether you believe in god, or in some other entity, belief and faith are common to all mankind—the images and symbols may be totally different in various localities but they stem from something common to all mankind.

This is not a mere verbal statement. If you take it as a verbal statement, as an idea, as a concept, then you will not see the deep significance involved in it. The significance is that your consciousness is the consciousness of all humanity because you suffer, you are anxious, you are lonely, insecure, confused, exactly like others, though they live ten thousand miles away. The realisation of it, the feeling of it—the feeling in your gut—is totally different from the mere verbal acceptance.

Please do not accept what the speaker is saying; if you do it will have no meaning. If you do not begin to doubt, begin to question, be sceptical to enquire, if you hold on to your own particular belief, faith, experience or the accumulated knowledge, then you will reduce it all to some kind of pettiness with very little meaning. If you do that you will not be facing the tremendous issue that is facing man.

If you are a surgeon or a carpenter, if you specialise in a particular profession, that group consciousness is part of your consciousness. If you live in a particular country with its particular tradition and religious culture, that particular group consciousness has become part of your consciousness. These are facts. If you are a carpenter you have to have certain skills, understand the nature of wood and the tools of the trade, so you gradually belong to a group that has cultivated these special skills and that has its own consciousness—similarly the scientist, the archeologist, just as the animals have their own particular consciousness as a group. If you are a housewife you have your own particular group consciousness, like all the other housewives.

Permissiveness has spread throughout the world; it began in the far West and has spread right through the world. That is a group-conscious movement. See the significance of it; go into it for yourself, see what is involved in it.

Our consciousness includes, in the much deeper consciousness, our fears. Man has lived with fear for generation after generation. He has lived with pleasure, with envy, with all the travail of loneliness, depression and confusion; and with great sorrow, with what he calls love and the everlasting fear of death. All this is his consciousness which is common to all mankind. Realise what it means: it means that you are no longer an individual. This is very hard to accept because we think we are individuals.

So, how shall a human being—who is actually the rest of mankind—how shall he face this crisis, this turning point? How will you as a human being, who has evolved through millennia upon millennia, thinking as an individual—which is actually an illusion—face a turning point, see what actually is and in that very perception move totally in another direction?

Let us understand together what it means to look—to look at the actuality of thought. You all think, that is why you are here. You all think and thought expresses itself in words, or through a gesture, through a look, through some bodily movement. Words being common to each one of us, we understand through those words the significance of what is being said. Yet thought is common to all mankind—it is a most extraordinary thing if you have discovered that, for then you see that thought is not your thought, it is thought. We have to learn how to see things as they actually are—not as you are programmed to look. See the difference.

If you belong to a certain group, or follow a certain guru, or are committed to a certain form of action, then, because you have been programmed, you will be incapable of looking at things as they actually are.

If you have accumulated a great deal of knowledge from books and from experience, your mind has already been filled, your brain is crowded with experience, with your particular tendencies and so on—all that is going to prevent you from looking. Can we be free of all that to look at what is actually happening in the world? Can you look at yourself—not as a separate human being but as a human being who is actually the rest of mankind? To have such a feeling means that you have tremendous love for human beings.

When you are able to see clearly, without any distortion, then you begin to enquire into the nature of consciousness, including the much deeper layers of consciousness. You have to enquire into the whole movement of thought, because it is thought that is responsible for all the content of consciousness, whether it is the deep or the superficial layers.

If you had no thought there would be no fear, no sense of pleasure, no time; thought is responsible. Thought is responsible for the beauty of a great cathedral, but thought is also responsible for all the nonsense that takes place inside the cathedral. All the achievements of the great painters, poets, composers, are the activity of thought: the composer; inwardly hearing the marvellous sound, commits it onto paper. That is the movement of thought.

Thought is the common factor of all mankind. The poorest villager in India thinks as the chief executive thinks, as the religious leader thinks. That is a common everyday fact. That is the ground on which all human beings stand. You cannot escape from that.

Thought has done marvellous things to help man but it has also brought about great destruction and terror in the world. We have to understand the nature and the movement of thought; why you think in a certain way; why you cling to certain forms of thought; why you hold on to certain experiences; why thought has never understood the nature of death. We have to examine the very structure of thought—not your thought because it is fairly obvious what your thought is, for you have been programmed. But if you enquire seriously into what thinking is, then you enter into quite a different dimension—not the dimension of your own particular little problem. You must understand the tremendous movement of thought, the nature of thinking—not as a philosopher, not as a religious man, not as a member of a particular profession, or a housewife—the enormous vitality of thinking.

What is thinking? It is a response, a reaction, of memory. If you had no memory you would not be able to think. Memory is stored in the brain as knowledge, the result of experience. This is how our brain operates. First, experience; that experience may have been from the beginning of man, which we have inherited, that experience gives knowledge which is stored up in the brain; from knowledge there is memory and from that memory thought. From thought you act.

What is thinking?

It is a response, a reaction, of memory. If you had no memory you would not be able to think. Memory is stored in the brain as knowledge, the result of experience. This is how our brain operates.

First, experience; that experience may have been from the beginning of man, which we have inherited, that experience gives knowledge which is stored up in the brain; from knowledge there is memory and from that memory thought. From thought you act. From that action you learn more. So you repeat the cycle. Experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action; from that action learn more and repeat. This is how we are programmed. We are always doing this: having remembered pain, in the future avoid pain by not doing the thing that will cause pain, which becomes knowledge, and repeat that. Sexual pleasure, repeat that.

This is the movement of thought. See the beauty of it, how mechanically thought operates. Thought says to itself: ‘I am free to operate.’ Yet thought is never free because it is based on knowledge and knowledge is obviously always limited.

Knowledge must also be always limited because it is part of time. I will learn more and to learn more I must have time. I do not know Russian but I will learn it. It may take me six months or a year or a lifetime. Knowledge is the movement of time. Time, knowledge, thought and action; in this cycle we live. Thought is limited, so whatever action thought generates must be limited and such limitation must create conflict, must be divisive.

Our life from birth to death is a series of struggles and conflicts from which we are always trying to escape, which again causes more conflict. We live and die in this perpetual and endless conflict. We never seek out the root of that conflict, which is thought, because thought is limited. Please do not ask, ‘How am I to stop thought?’—that is not the point. The point is to understand the nature of thought, to look at it.

Jiddu Krishnamurti.